Katie Hunckler and Jim Slater “met the old fashioned way,” she says. “On Bumble!” For their first date, in January 2017, Jim took Katie to a Chicago institution, Marge’s Still. “It was one of those dates where the conversation just flowed,” Katie recalled. “We realized that we had been to several places at the same time, especially during concerts.” Their first date was so good that they planned their second date right away. It was an application match made in heaven.
“We got engaged on our rooftop in June 2020, just us and our tomato plants,” Katie shares. They had just had a casual dinner on the patio at one of their favorite neighborhood spots. “It was one of those wonderful summer nights in Chicago, a perfect date night. We walked home hand in hand and went for a nightcap on our rooftop terrace. She continues: “Jim came up first. He had lit up the space with twinkling lights and was playing my favorite Bruce Springsteen song. There was chilled champagne tucked away in the corner.” I opened the door to find him on one knee.
In the wedding planning, “Jim and I were aligned from the start,” Katie says. “We wanted to throw a really fun end-of-summer party that we’d both want to go to even if it wasn’t our wedding.” They chose Shoreacres, a private golf club just north of Chicago, as their meeting place. “It’s such a beautiful setting — it feels like a destination wedding because it’s right on Lake Michigan,” Katie says. “It meant so much to us to be able to hold the ceremony and wedding almost entirely outdoors, with an open-sided tent. This was partly for COVID safety reasons, but also because late summer in Chicago is one of our favorite times of year.
The couple asked Bianca Hall of Estera Events to bring their vision to life. “Bianca understood the vibe Jim and I were looking for and was a great creative partner,” says Katie. “The questions she asked us to understand our tastes were not trivial but poignant, and if I was making an obscure reference to a certain fabric or hotel design, she always knew exactly what I was talking about.” (Fabric, ultimately, would become an essential part of their design.)
They wanted “a quintessential Chicago weekend,” Katie says. So they started with a rehearsal dinner and welcome party at The Hideout dive bar and live music venue on Friday night, complete with a pizza truck and a live band. “They played a lot of danceable classic rock, and it was such a fun start to the weekend,” Katie says. “Why not dance at both events?”
The next morning, September 11, 2021, they kicked off their wedding by unearthing a bottle of bourbon that Katie’s mother had buried a month earlier. The Southern tradition is believed to bring good weather on the wedding day and good fortune to the married couple. “We’re not from the South, but some friends and family are,” Katie admits. “But we all love bourbon and we didn’t want to take any chances! It worked: the sun shone for their perfect wedding.
Read on to see all the gorgeous details, planned by Estera Events and photographed by Studio This Is.
Katie and Jim’s vision differed on one thing: “I canceled it on the need for paper invitations and saving the dates versus sending out calendar invitations via email,” Katie explains. “Not sorry!” She dove head first into the creative process of choosing papers, textures and fonts. “We worked with Happy Menocal Studio to create a whimsical yet elegant emblem that represented us and defined the colors, look and feel we would wear throughout the planning and design process,” Katie explains. “It included ivy to represent the Wrigley Field and Jim’s Cubs super-fandom, and my favorite flower, the dahlia. The shape of the emblem came from the center point of a beautiful rug that Jim and I found on a trip to Egypt.
“I’m a researcher and I know my body proportions as well,” says Katie. “I knew I wanted off the shoulders, interesting but not fashionable lace, and an A-line silhouette.” She saw Monique Lhuillier’s ‘Lovely’ dress from the Spring 2020 collection online and went on the hunt. “I loved the low back and the lace of this dress. When I tried it on at the Monique show at Ultimate Bride, I was already pretty sure. She completed her look with a simple tulle veil , her mother’s diamond earrings, and a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes she could walk in the grass in.
“Because there were only two bridesmaids, we could really have fun with how they looked,” Katie says. “I’m a huge Ulla Johnson fan, and thought several of her designs that year matched the wedding look. We chose two different Ulla dresses that weren’t identical, but went together. Liz’s dress had small touches of the same primary color as Lindsay’s dress. Lindsay also had the idea of using a scrap of fabric left over from touch-ups in her hair. Monobotanical bouquets of yellow garden roses burst against patterned dresses.
Jim paired his navy blue Tom James suit with a green polka dot tie from Tie Bar and socks featuring the famous Grateful Dead dancing bears. He wore his grandfather’s engraved cufflinks.
I still have butterflies in my stomach when I think of our first sight.
The duo decided early on that they wanted to do a first look. “We liked the idea of having a moment to ourselves to fully grasp the gravity of this moment,” Katie says. “It’s such a great way to start the day, and you walk into the ceremony already feeling like a unit.” That said, at the time, she felt weak. “I was both so excited to see it and so overwhelmed with the love and intensity of it all – I still get butterflies in my stomach when I think about it.”
A simple delphinium-lined platform served as an altar and the expansive view of Lake Michigan as a backdrop. “The most important parts of the ceremony decor were the beautiful floral shaded arches guiding guests to the seats and framing the aisle,” says Katie. “Bianca and Life in Bloom came up with sketches of these magnificent arches. They immediately felt special, even in sketch form, and I was completely blown away the day they looked so good. Flower petals lined the aisle and a live bluegrass band played as the 200 guests took their seats.
A family friend presided over the ceremony, which paid tribute to the couple’s love of music. “We had readings from our favorite musical artists, mine being Bruce Springsteen – my childhood friend read ‘If I Should Fall Behind’,” Katie says. “Jim’s best friend read ‘Standing on the Moon’ by the Grateful Dead. Artists and songs are important to us. After “I do,” the band covered The Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face” as the pair headed down the aisle.
Like the ceremony, the aperitif hour overlooked the lake. “We had high tables with beautiful linen tablecloths embroidered in buttery yellow patterns and a big coral tassel to tie them together,” Katie describes. Guests sampled mini lobster rolls, vegetarian flatbread and lamb lollipops and feasted on a raw sea bass.
“Perhaps one of my favorite elements of the cocktail area was the presentation of the business card,” says Katie. “A hugely important part of the reception look was fabric and texture. Our friend Melinda Marquardt is a textile designer and artist who owns The Vale London. It meant a lot to incorporate her designs into key places like the display of the business card and the pillows in the sitting area.
The ceremonial arches were reused to create the path from the cocktail hour to the reception tent. “They looked even more magical lit up at dusk,” Katie says.
“We wanted the decor to be fun and unique, but still stylish and seasonal. The textile and textural elements were important personal touches,” says Katie. “One of my favorite places where we incorporated texture was in the form large fringed lanterns above the dance floor, hung among disco balls and chandeliers covered in greenery. It was hard to look away from the amazing combination – I wish I could take every piece home.
“We had three tablescapes and place settings that were each unique, but went together like a great outfit,” Katie explains. Long rectangular tables had large arrangements of greenery that mirrored the branches wrapped around the tent poles. The circular tables had green and white flowers with touches of coral dahlia. “I also loved the mix of ginger jars – having both green and blue and different, playful and stylish designs.” The couple’s custom crest also featured on the bar.
The newlyweds made their grand entrance and went straight to the dance floor, rocking out to John Prine’s “In Spite of Ourselves.” There was a brief break for dinner — a late-summer Midwestern menu of grilled peaches, heirloom tomato burrata, steak with chimichurri sauce, and key lime pie for dessert — but importantly, “we barely left the dance floor,” says the bride.
“With the help of my best friend, interior designer and bridesmaid, Lindsay Baker of Sarah Vaile Design, we chose some of my favorite classic textile patterns to create screens that served as focal points and backdrops. background behind the group,” Katie explains. “Bianca and Life in Bloom also used elements of our emblem to create a repeating pattern that we could use on screens and custom matchbooks.”
They wove in meaningful moments like speeches, but canceled others, like the cake cutting, in favor of more time on the dance floor. “Jim and I are both outgoing and aimed to throw a fantastic party, so it was important to maximize time on the dance floor,” says Katie. “You just want the night to last forever.” Of course, that eventually had to come to an end, leading to another of Katie’s most memorable moments: “Hanging on a Chicago hot dog just in time before getting in the car to head back to town.” Shortly after, the newlyweds traveled to Hawaii for a wonderful honeymoon.